Thursday, 3 September 2009

789 - Liturgy (2): Psychogeography

On Cheltenham Racecourse I had a chance to put a question to Iain Sinclair. He's (tangentially, at least) a practitioner of psychogeography. In his books (Edge of the Orison; London Orbital; Hackney, That Rose-Red Empire) he explores the experience of walking through various landscapes, mythmaking with the architecture, people and histories he finds there.

He spoke about the devastation inflicted, unwittingly perhaps, on the poet John Clare, who, unable to acclimatise to London's literary life, sought to return to his labouring family home, only to find that enclosure of the commons had, in the name of progress, privatised the landscape he used to wander freely and which had given him belonging and a muse. Doubly disenfranchised, he spent the latter years of his life in an asylum.

Such enclosure currently finds its echo in the Millenium Dome (a space enclosed with nothing in it) and, now, in the site of the 2012 Olympic Village, where you are being photographed as you approach, but where you have no power to photograph back, on pain of the confiscation of your camera. The site is empty, and the architecture to be built on it modern and uniform, but the crushed stone and life-space confiscated from its previous residents was once rich and full.

Sinclair's talk was powerful, and I, and perhaps others after, asked him how, in the midst of cultural obliteration, one might make a proactive stand for cultural rejuvenation. He writes books. What else could one do?

He gave an interesting answer: "Keep moving. Keep finding new projects."

I cannot help but think that this is the way that Whitley Bay will grow: for its people, and those who come to it, to keep moving, keep on walking, keep dreaming, pushing, and pressing our projects to completion.


hectoria said...

Being a geographer I am obliged to comment Steve: He is an interesting man ( I listened to the Hackney book on R4 & will read it one day); there is a lot of politics in his stuff as well which I assume you are aware of having listened to him.Change is inevitable & its easy to think that old is best with street scapes and buildings. The Olympics stuff may be unbeautiful but hopefully it will be better than acres of blight and dereliction.

Steve Lancaster said...

Hi Hectoria - yes, you'll know much more about it than me!

But I do chime with a lot of his politics...

I agree change is inevitable... but why is it inevitably a progression towards the bland and unrisky? If the Olympics stuff is unbeautiful (like the colours on the roof of Monkseaton High, hee-hee) why doesn't anyone risk something beautiful again? Heck, why build, build, build? Why not just clean up and replant?